First Week of Lent

Prayer and Spiritual Warfare

Prayer reorients us toward God and his Kingdom. Therefore, it is our chief weapon against Satan and his kingdom.

But prayer is not easy! It is often a struggle.

When we set out to pray, we have to fight against doubts, distractions, discouragement, dryness, and the urge to give up. We must contend with our physical and mental weaknesses like tiredness and lack of concentration. Finally, we must fend off temptations that come directly from Satan and the demons.
In paragraph 2726, the Catechism says, "Those who seek God by prayer are quickly discouraged because they do not know that prayer comes also from the Holy Spirit and not from themselves alone." Prayer requires effort, but we can't grow closer to God simply by trying hard enough.

So how can we win this battle? Calling on God's grace, we must grow in humility, trust, and perseverance. Realizing and admitting our weakness and sinfulness, we place our faith in God rather than ourselves, and keep trying to pray even when it's difficult. We trust that our loving Father hears our prayers and answers in his own way and time. We have faith that he is present and listening even when he feels distant.
Finally, in the battle of prayer we should call upon our allies. The saints (especially the Holy Mother of God, St. Joseph, and our patron saints) and the angels (particularly our guardian angel and St. Michael the Archangel) are on our side in the spiritual warfare of the Christian life. Because they are with God in heaven, they are experts in prayer. We can (and should) ask them to intercede for us as we struggle to grow closer to God.
Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.

This collect prayer begins the Mass for Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Jesus is calling us to "take up battle against spiritual evils." We'll explore fasting itself in a few weeks; during the week of Ash Wednesday, we're going to dig into an important set of weapons the Lord gives us to fight evil: sacramentals.

What's a sacramental? Well, if you attend Mass on Ash Wednesday, you're probably going to receive one on your forehead.